The Traffic Group

Status Report: Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

The Federal Highway Administration’s latest travel volume trends reports that U.S. VMT hit 273.5 billion miles in October 2015, which is 2.4% greater than October 2014 and the highest October total ever.

Year-to-date in 2015, VMT totaled 2.63 trillion miles for the first ten months of the year, which is up 3.4% over the comparable period in 2014. Strong VMT growth has led to upgrades in Bond ratings of four major toll agencies by Fitch Ratings, as reported in its 2015 Toll Road Peer Review that was released mid-December.

What does this mean for VMT in the future? There has been a significant debate among various transportation planners on whether the event of large-scale use of autonomous vehicles (AVs) will increase or decrease vehicle miles of travel.  Will there be changes to VMT as compared with the current trends as a result of self-driving vehicles?

KPMG sought to quantify the effect of VMT from vehicle users at both ends of the age spectrum.  As a result of in-depth research conducted for their report entitled, The Clock Speed Dilemma: What Does It Mean for Automotive Innovation, their findings predict a huge spike in personal miles of travel per capita for age groups 16-24, 55-64, 65-74, and 75-84.  Notice the one group where they do not predict an increase is ages 25-54.

After converting personal miles of travel (PMT) to vehicle miles traveled (VMT), KPMG still predicts that the total VMT in the year 2050 (just 35 years from now) could be as much as 5 trillion as compared to around 3 trillion in the year 2015.

This particular study seems to indicate that self-driving vehicles may or may not reduce the number of automobiles, however, the use of automobiles as a result of self-driving technology is projected to increase by more than 65% over the next 35 years. Everyone continues to feel that self-driving cars and self-driving trucks (for the trucking industry) will result in a substantial reduction in accidents. It certainly feels as if there will not be a substantial reduction in traffic from a VMT point of view.